Function Cuffs Fashion - Start-up Week

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Tanya Silverman Matthew DeMello

By Tanya Silverman & Matthew DeMello

Photo courtesy of Cuff.

Wearable tech has a gender imbalance. Speaking plainly, the budding industry tends to create items for nerds by nerds, a relationship that largely leaves out the female demographic.

Smart glasses and smart watches offer their innovative purposes, but really, they might go better with some dorky Eddie Bauer khakis that a guy’s mom bought him for the holidays than a woman’s new spring floral dress.

Enter San Francisco’s Deepa Sood, who struck a balance between functional and fashionable tech through Cuff, her line of “smart jewelry” that will launch Fall 2014.

“Because we’re in the ‘wild, wild west’ of the wearable [tech] world, people are forgetting that if there’s something on your body, you want to have an aesthetic and a style choice,” Sood tells BTR.

Cuff jewelry doesn’t look nerdy–there are some shimmery metallic and earthy leather bracelets that have a subtle flair, but are still adaptable with a variety of looks. Pearl necklaces, feather pendants, and simple key chains are other options.

What makes these accessories smarter than your average watch, necklace, or bracelet? All pieces in the line come with a part to insert Cufflinc, a small module that functions with 4.0-equipped iOS devices. Water proof and interchangeable, when Cufflinc is paired with a piece of Cuff jewelry, it can alert wearers when their phone is vibrating in their purse.

“You don’t need your whole phone on your wrist,” says Sood, “you probably want parts of it to curate to put [there].”

In addition to this lifestyle benefit, Cuff offers users a number of personal security options, some of which can send out a distress signal to any nearby assistance if the users feels like they are in danger. When someone wearing one of these pieces squeezes it, the tech sends a signal out to everyone else who’s connected to their Cuff network, vibrates their jewelry, and tells them the original person’s whereabouts by phone.

“As a mom of three, and as a wife in this amazing revolution of tech, if I could be more present and more connected with the VIPs of my social network, I would love to have an opportunity to do that,” Sood describes her inspiration for these features.

Though Sood’s initial concerns were more connected to women who are in their 40s and might have children, because of the fashion element, the product also appeals to younger females who live alone. When they walk home from work at night, for instance, carrying a Cuff piece affords them an “extra layer of insurance.” For college-aged girls, they can move around campus with their Cuffs and feel safely connected with their network of friends.

In terms of the older demographic, Cuff also offers the Life Alert button, popular among senior citizens.

As former VP of product development at upscale home furnishing outlet, Restoration Hardware, Sood learned some valuable skills when presenting products to customers.

“One of the best things I’ve learned is that sometimes you learn how to delight people with product offerings that they don’t even know they want,” she tells BTR.

Sood continues that customers may only realize an item’s importance when it is presented to them, something she hopes to offset further by selling Cuff jewelry. Perhaps customers do not automatically realize the value in being further connected to their most important people, but can in the future, and do so in an aesthetically elegant manner.

Ultimately, Sood states that Cuff products are not meant to show off the latest gadget, but are accessories meant to complement women’s personal styles, and simultaneously give them an “extra level of connectedness and protectiveness.”